U.S. Navy to Test Star Wars Rail Gun in 2016

U.S. Navy to Test Star Wars Rail Gun in 2016

Railgun

The U.S. Navy will begin sea trials for a railgun in 2016 and will integrate the weapons technology into warships as early as 2018.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan was derided for proposing the Strategic Defense Initiative, which was dubbed "Star Wars" by the mainstream media. That initiative sought to use ground-based and space-based systems to protect the U.S. from attack by nuclear missiles. Today, the U.S. Navy is planning sea trials for a "Star Wars" technology weapon that will make enemies think twice, according to the Navy's research chief.

Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, the chief of Naval Research, recently spoke to a round table group about a weapon that can fire a low-cost, 23-pound projectile at seven times the speed of sound using electromagnetic energy: a railgun. Klunder said that the weapon had had already undergone extensive testing on land and would be mounted on the USNS Millinocket, a high-speed vessel, for sea trials beginning in 2016.

"It's now reality and it's not science fiction," said Klunder. "It's actually real. You can look at it. It's firing."

"It will help us in air defense," Klunder continued. "It will help us in cruise missile defense; it will help us in ballistic missile defense. We're also talking about a gun that's going to shoot a projectile that's about one one-hundredth of the cost of an existing missile system today."

Missiles typically cost between $500,000 to $1.5 million, while a railgun projectile costs $25,000, Klunder explained. With that degree of differential, it would no longer be cost-efficient for an enemy to fire a missile at a U.S. warship, giving the U.S. a definitive edge in air and naval dominance.

"That ... will give our adversaries a huge moment of pause to go: 'Do I even want to go engage a naval ship?'" Klunder told reporters. "You could throw anything at us, frankly, and the fact that we now can shoot a number of these rounds at a very affordable cost, it's my opinion that they don't win."

The U.S. Navy is looking into developing a railgun system that can fire multiple shots in succession. While ships can carry dozens of missiles, they can be loaded with hundreds of railgun projectiles, Klunder said.

"We're talking about a projectile that we're going to send well over 100 miles; we're talking about a projectile that can go over Mach 7; we're talking about a projectile that can go well into the atmosphere," Klunder said. "Your magazine never runs out, you just keep shooting, and that's compelling."

Officials said they would begin looking at integrating the railgun system into warships after 2018.

Source: Reuters

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While I doubt that it'll look like the railgun in the transformers movie, then... damn, this sounds nice

If anything I'm kinda sad that it'll likely not look that impressive. I mean, there wont be any big plume of gunpowder-smoke when it fires - sure there'll be a big sonic boom from the projectile, but beyond that...

Still, railguns. We future now

Just throwing it out there from being in a seagoing service. Pretty sure it is "sea trials" not "seal trials" as was used multiple times in the article.

Rhykker:
Missiles typically cost between $500,000 to $1.5 million, while a railgun projectile costs $25,000, Klunder explained. With that degree of differential, it would no longer be cost-efficient for an enemy to fire a missile at a U.S. warship, giving the U.S. a definitive edge in air and naval dominance.

"That ... will give our adversaries a huge moment of pause to go: 'Do I even want to go engage a naval ship?'" Klunder told reporters. "You could throw anything at us, frankly, and the fact that we now can shoot a number of these rounds at a very affordable cost, it's my opinion that they don't win."

While there's something to be said about being frugal even when you are spending a lot. I don't really think it was a concern that another nation was really going to out-monetize the US militarily.

mrpollio:
Just throwing it out there from being in a seagoing service. Pretty sure it is "sea trials" not "seal trials" as was used multiple times in the article.

Typo; fixed. Thanks.

Slycne:

Rhykker:
Missiles typically cost between $500,000 to $1.5 million, while a railgun projectile costs $25,000, Klunder explained. With that degree of differential, it would no longer be cost-efficient for an enemy to fire a missile at a U.S. warship, giving the U.S. a definitive edge in air and naval dominance.

"That ... will give our adversaries a huge moment of pause to go: 'Do I even want to go engage a naval ship?'" Klunder told reporters. "You could throw anything at us, frankly, and the fact that we now can shoot a number of these rounds at a very affordable cost, it's my opinion that they don't win."

While there's something to be said about being frugal even when you are spending a lot. I don't really think it was a concern that another nation was really going to out-monetize the US militarily.

Thanks to human stupidity, you can bet that someones going to try eventually.

While this does seem useful for naval vessels to defend against anti-ship missiles at an affordable cost, surely if you wanted to intercept a nuclear missile you'd want to do so with something that has better guidance capabilities and a longer effective range than a simple projectile weapon (or rather, a very advanced weapon that fires simple projectiles), so that you could bring it down from as great a distance as possible?

A missile seems to be a better tool for shooting down other missiles from very far away.

Also, $25000 seems pretty expensive for a dumb projectile, but I guess depleted uranium or w/e they're using must be pricey.

All well and good, but being that taking planes into consideration, the rail gun is fairly useless for protecting ships. But still, its a pretty cool gun to have. :-)

dyre:
While this does seem useful for naval vessels to defend against anti-ship missiles at an affordable cost, surely if you wanted to intercept a nuclear missile you'd want to do so with something that has better guidance capabilities and a longer effective range than a simple projectile weapon (or rather, a very advanced weapon that fires simple projectiles), so that you could bring it down from as great a distance as possible?

A missile seems to be a better tool for shooting down other missiles from very far away.

Also, $25000 seems pretty expensive for a dumb projectile, but I guess depleted uranium or w/e they're using must be pricey.

I'd image it would be a first action against an enemy nuke in the air, with many other countermeasures being deployed in case the rail gun fails. Plus with computerized targeting systems, I'd bet it could hit a 100ft long object traveling at 600-1200 mph from a few miles away with little difficulty.

I think some of the price comes from the wear on the rails each firing dishes out. Early prototypes needed new rails after every shot, so I'd assume they are made out some spiffy material and still need to be changed out after every few rounds. The slugs are also probably tungsten with a depleted uranium core maybe with a soft metal coating to reduce the rail wear.
That tasty sandwich might get expensive fast in the calibers the US Navy is fond of using.

And now the NSA is knocking at my door just because I like reading about tech and military stuff online and paid attention during physics class.

Hairless Mammoth:

dyre:
While this does seem useful for naval vessels to defend against anti-ship missiles at an affordable cost, surely if you wanted to intercept a nuclear missile you'd want to do so with something that has better guidance capabilities and a longer effective range than a simple projectile weapon (or rather, a very advanced weapon that fires simple projectiles), so that you could bring it down from as great a distance as possible?

A missile seems to be a better tool for shooting down other missiles from very far away.

Also, $25000 seems pretty expensive for a dumb projectile, but I guess depleted uranium or w/e they're using must be pricey.

I'd image it would be a first action against an enemy nuke in the air, with many other countermeasures being deployed in case the rail gun fails. Plus with computerized targeting systems, I'd bet it could hit a 100ft long object traveling at 600-1200 mph from a few miles away with little difficulty.

I think some of the price comes from the wear on the rails each firing dishes out. Early prototypes needed new rails after every shot, so I'd assume they are made out some spiffy material and still need to be changed out after every few rounds. The slugs are also probably tungsten with a depleted uranium core maybe with a soft metal coating to reduce the rail wear.
That tasty sandwich might get expensive fast in the calibers the US Navy is fond of using.

And now the NSA is knocking at my door just because I like reading about tech and military stuff online and paid attention during physics class.

Yeah, you seem to know an awful lot about this...what are you, a Chinese spy?

But I appreciate the perspective regarding other costs involved. I guess it's a difference between using unit variable costs vs total costs/total units.

Not only do the benefits above work, a railgun projectile is bacially a slug of heavy metal, it doesn't leave a smoke trail or burn fuel like a missile so doesn't leave as big of a heat signature which would make it hard to track. Now this isn't quite the "stealth nuke" from Metal Gear Solid (1) but it's still hard to track and the sheer kinetic energy of such a slug will make one hell of a mess of whatever gets in it's way.

Personally I think part of the pricetag comes from what is likely to be a specialized alloy for the projectiles as well as needing precision machining as any roughness or variation in radius of the projectile will abrade the railgun barrel and with the velocities that's possible to tear the rails of the gun apart or at the very least cause heat buildup which would warp the barrel and ruin it.

Oh, I really hope they make these into something like the ship-long MAC cannons in the Halo universe. Those things were badass, they essentially turned a frigate into a giant gun.

The thing about Mach 7 projectiles is that if it were aimed at an airplane, the plane would be gone before the pilot had the physical capability to react. I watched the land test firing of these weapons. It shot a solid Aluminium slug the size of a two liter of Coke. It traveled so fast that shearing force pulled a strip off the projectile. The resultant friction caused a fireball and there's no flammable materiel on the solid slug. That's an indication of "It going fast". I would wager with a range of 100 miles, it could be countermeasure for anything.

While $25,000 is definitely a lot cheaper I would think the cost of energy to produce the work required to fire it would be quite a bit...

um, I'm pretty damn sure that railguns have been utilized by US military for a long fucking time, years. It's not like it's a super-advanced technology, it just requires a high voltage and a rapid discharge of energy. The megajoule capacitors necessary have been available for decades. Maybe the targeting tech is new, but the rail-gun itself is pretty old news.

webkilla:

If anything I'm kinda sad that it'll likely not look that impressive. I mean, there wont be any big plume of gunpowder-smoke when it fires - sure there'll be a big sonic boom from the projectile, but beyond that...

Don't worry about any lack of drama. The kinetic energy of the projectile sets the air around on fire.

They've been in development for a long time but I think they're just recently getting them to the point that they're actually deploy-able, and they're still only being considered for ships because the power plant required is too large for any other vehicle. But yes, there are videos and such of the US navy testing a railgun that have been on the internet for a few years.

dyre:
While this does seem useful for naval vessels to defend against anti-ship missiles at an affordable cost, surely if you wanted to intercept a nuclear missile you'd want to do so with something that has better guidance capabilities and a longer effective range than a simple projectile weapon (or rather, a very advanced weapon that fires simple projectiles), so that you could bring it down from as great a distance as possible?

A missile seems to be a better tool for shooting down other missiles from very far away.

Also, $25000 seems pretty expensive for a dumb projectile, but I guess depleted uranium or w/e they're using must be pricey.

It's not for shooting down missiles, it's for shooting down whatever's firing the missiles

Why is it call Star Wars? Star Wars uses direct energy weapons, railguns and other projectile weapons are either outdated, second hand, or specialized weapons.

A better name would be Mass Effect, railguns are all over that series. Though I guess Star Wars is more well known.

Still Mass Effect would be a better code name.

Now onto the railgun itself. I can see the uses, compared to missles. Railgun projectiles would be hard to track, and harder to defend against. Either you need energy shields, or simply not be there when it arrives. However, a missle would be better for targets behind a few mountains, or fast moving, as either would be hard for a railgun to hit. And style points, railguns> missles in style points.

Now if they can mount it on tank the better.

this sounds like the ultimate trolling tactic. park one at the seashore and just shoot anything tryign to take off from the enemy team.
i also dont like his comment about no magazines. for one the rails would tear and needs to be replaced, which is going to cause identical problems as magazine replacements. for two, you still go rounds and they can run out. And you also need to make sure your actually generating enough energy for the firing, which whne needs to be portable (on a ship) may end up being nuclear power. and nuclear power during a firefight may not always be maximum realiability.

Kuredan:
The thing about Mach 7 projectiles is that if it were aimed at an airplane, the plane would be gone before the pilot had the physical capability to react. I watched the land test firing of these weapons. It shot a solid Aluminium slug the size of a two liter of Coke. It traveled so fast that shearing force pulled a strip off the projectile. The resultant friction caused a fireball and there's no flammable materiel on the solid slug. That's an indication of "It going fast". I would wager with a range of 100 miles, it could be countermeasure for anything.

and thats where my skepticism comes in. if its moving at such friction as to cause fireballs just from that, lets look at another objectthat does the same - meteorites. see where im going with it yet? its going to burn up till it reaches these 100 miles, reducing its effectiveness.

dyre:
While this does seem useful for naval vessels to defend against anti-ship missiles at an affordable cost, surely if you wanted to intercept a nuclear missile you'd want to do so with something that has better guidance capabilities and a longer effective range than a simple projectile weapon (or rather, a very advanced weapon that fires simple projectiles), so that you could bring it down from as great a distance as possible?

A missile seems to be a better tool for shooting down other missiles from very far away.

Also, $25000 seems pretty expensive for a dumb projectile, but I guess depleted uranium or w/e they're using must be pricey.

The Chinese have developed a land based intermediate range ballistic anti ship missile. This means that carrier battle groups need defence against warheads in the reentry phase. The rail guns muzzle velocity of Mach 7-10 as opposed to the SAM velocity of Mach 6 mean hits are more likely and its possible to have more shots in the same period of time. The current anti ballistic missile system is designed to hit ballistic missiles in the launch phase. During this period they are slow and do not accelerate that quickly and are relatively easy targets.

Orks da best:
Why is it call Star Wars? Star Wars uses direct energy weapons, railguns and other projectile weapons are either outdated, second hand, or specialized weapons.

Its called star wars because it came out of the early 80s SDI program known as star wars. Rail guns were just one part of the program. Other areas included ground based lasers and even a space based x-ray laser powered by nuclear detonations.

Strazdas:

Thats where my skepticism comes in. if its moving at such friction as to cause fireballs just from that, lets look at another object that does the same - meteorites. see where I'm going with it yet? Its going to burn up till it reaches these 100 miles, reducing its effectiveness.

Missile warheads come in at Mach 29 without burning up. Dealing with heat build up at hypervelocity has been an area heavily researched over the last 70 years. Now as an educated guess I would say that the slug has an ablative coating and by clever design you manage the shock wave in front. By shaping the shockwave you can reduce the thermal buildup. It only has to survive for less than a second.

RA92:
...Don't worry about any lack of drama. The kinetic energy of the projectile sets the air around on fire.

It's the same effect that everything that comes back from space experiences and ultimately what caused the Space Shuttle Columbia to disintegrate (Fun fact: The shuttle is so large that it can communicate during re-entry through a "Hole" in this effect formed by the vertical stabiliser! Other craft are not large enough and suffer complete loss of communication until they slow down.). The atmosphere does NOT like things travelling that quickly and will do whatever it can to slow it down

 

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